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Standing between Life and ExtinctionEthics and Ecology of Conserving Aquatic Species in North American Deserts$
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David Propst, Jack Williams, Kevin Bestgen, and Christopher Hoagstrom

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780226694337

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226694504.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 June 2022

Running on Empty

Running on Empty

Southwestern Water Supplies and Climate Change

(p.109) 7 Running on Empty
Standing between Life and Extinction

Bradley H. Udall

University of Chicago Press

The two major rivers of the Southwest United States and Mexico, the Colorado and the Rio Grande, were fundamentally and irretrievably altered during the 20th century. Massive dam construction in both basins provided new water supplies for agricultural and municipal growth throughout the region. As water needs increased and infrastructure grew to meet these needs, water management laws and agreements also increased in number and complexity. Water demand in both basins grew to equal supplies and now the Colorado River fails to reach the ocean, and the Rio Grande dries in places it historically did not. Natural ecosystems have suffered because of water diversions and both basins now contain endangered aquatic and riparian species. Water management is complex and difficult to modify to meet changing requirements. Climate change will continue to impact both rivers by reducing flows as air temperatures warm, further reducing the ability of these systems to support sustainable supplies for people and ecosystems.

Keywords:   climate change, Colorado River, Rio Grande, water management, infrastructure, dams

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